GGPD K9 now has bulletproof vest thanks to Community Policing Advisory Board donation

By Jessica Peralta

Members of the Garden Grove Police Department’s Community Policing Advisory Board smiled and laughed as they watched Vader happily run into the police car with his prize – a straw-colored bite sleeve used in K9 training to protect a decoy from the dog’s formidable bite.

It also doubles as a chew toy.

And it’s what motivates Vader to help in the apprehension of suspects while out on patrol with his handler, Master Officer Edgar Valencia.

Members of the Garden Grove Community Policing Advisory Board gather for a group photo with Vader, one of the department’s newest police dogs, and K9 handlers Officer Edgar Valencia, left, with Vader, and Cpl. John Bankson. Capt. Tom DaRé is far left and Garden Grove Police Chief Todd Elgin is far right.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“They go after things,” Valencia told the 10 members of CPAB regarding police K9s and their prey drive. “He’s a very playful dog.”

CPAB members – who are residents serving on an advisory board to the police chief – watched Valencia and Vader, with Cpl. John Bankson serving as the decoy (aka agitator), perform a demonstration on suspect apprehension in the GGPD parking area Aug. 2.

The demo was part of the K9 unit’s thank you for a recent donation that helped purchase new gear for the dogs. CPAB members donated $1,625 to the unit to purchase a bulletproof vest for Vader, and there was enough money left over for the purchase of a helmet to help protect the decoy during training and an electric dog collar as well.

Garden Grove PD Officer and K9 handler Edgar Valencia demonstrates the abilities of his K9 partner, Vader, in following commands. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“I already had to use it,” Valencia told the CPAB members about the vest. “I thank you guys for that.”

He said the electric collar purchased functions as a long leash for K9s. It gives a slight electrical charge as a signal to the dog. It also can emit tones the dog responds to. Bankson said the collar can benefit them in tactical situations where they don’t want to say verbal commands and potentially give away their position.

“I just buzz him,” Valencia said. “He’ll know to either lay down or come back.”

After Vader, a 77-pound, black German shepherd, performed the demo, Valencia and Bankson answered CPAB members’ questions, including whether Vader would respond to a suspect if he happened to know his commands.

“The [dog] is going to listen to one person,” Bankson said. “They know who dad is and they know who everybody else is.”

The members also were able to pet Vader, which brought some smiles to their faces.

Garden Grove PD Officer Edgar Valencia talks about the equipment used by K9 handlers as Community Policing Advisory Board members gather for a meeting and demonstration at police headquarters on Wednesday, Aug. 2.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“He’s a very sociable dog – but again, he has that switch,” Valencia said.

CPAB member Susan Alfrey spearheaded the donation drive to raise money for the GGPD K9 unit after reading about Vader becoming a new addition to the unit thanks to a donation from a community member. The unit now has two K9s, including Bankson’s dog – Rex, a sable-colored, 85-pound male German shepherd.

Alfrey enquired about whether Vader had a bulletproof vest and the answer was no. So she set a $1,500 goal and surpassed it with the help of donations from the other board members, as well as the community. Because CPAB had extra funds from the fundraising, members voted unanimously to reserve the funds for future use for any GGPD K9 vet bills.

“I’m an animal lover,” Alfrey told Behind the Badge. “I knew we needed a vest… I wanted the dogs to be safe.”

With the help of Garden Grove PD Cpl. John Bankson, right, playing the part of the “decoy,” Garden Officer and K9 handler Edgar Valencia demonstrates the abilities of Vader to stop an uncooperative suspect.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC